HOME    Manila Standard Today Article List
 Lectures & Presentations    Law & Jurisprudence   Administrative Issuances   Trust Products & Practice   About the Guru

Does Juan Ponce Enrile have a vote in the bag?

(Article Published in the Rappler, Jun 23,2014)

       Will the Sandiganbayan Third Division decide on the plunder case of Senator Enrile the same way it did on the graft charges against controversial businessman Roberto Ongpin?

       Senator Juan Ponce Enrile may be very lucky.

       The cases for plunder and anti-graft against Enrile and good friend Atty. Gigi Reyes and about a dozen other co-accused were raffled to the Third Division of the Sandiganbayan. One of the justices sitting in that division is Associate Justice Samuel R. Martires.

       By sheer coincidence, Martires is also a member of the Sandiganbayan’s Special Third Division that issued on May 28 a resolution, by a vote of 3 to 2, dismissing the anti-graft cases filed by the Ombudsman against Roberto V. Ongpin, et. al.,in Criminal Case Nos. SB-13-CRM-0105 and 0106. He was in fact the ponente of that resolution which, I was told, is at the time of this writing, still subject of the People of the Philippines’ motion for reconsideration.

       Senator Enrile had reportedly filed a “motion to dismiss” the information filed by the Ombudsman.

       Despite repeated attempts through mutual acquaintances, I had not been able to get my hands on Enrile’s motion. Thus, what I know about it is all from media reports. I have no reason to doubt the reliability of those reports.

       Ongpin, in the aforesaid cases against him, had filed, instead of a “motion to dismiss,” a “motion to quash." But irrespective of whether the motion is called “to dismiss” or “to quash,” the prayer under either is the same for both: that the court throw out the case, even prior to the issuance of the warrant of arrest that is ordinarily needed, unless the accused voluntarily gives himself up, to acquire jurisdiction over the persons of those accused.

       Both motions are intended to dispense with a full-blown trial where both the People of the Philippines as the accuser and those accused are heard. If granted, they practically, though not exactly legally, result in an acquittal of those charged.

       This gets interesting…

       Interesting to watch is, assuming the legal grounds for throwing out the cases against them as cited by Enrile and Ongpin are substantially identical, the way that Martires will vote. His ponencia in the Ongpin case shows what was in his mind at that time.

       The very first paragraph of Martires’ ponencia of the majority’s opinion in the Ongpin case reads as follows: “The rule has always been that a motion to quash on the ground that the allegations of the information do not constitute the offense charged or any offense for that matter, should be resolved on the basis alone of said allegations whose truth and veracity are hypothetically admitted. However, the Court is not prevented from considering facts not alleged in the information if those facts are admitted or not denied by the prosecution ....” Underline mine.

       What reasons would prompt a court, according to Martires, to follow the exception rather than the rule? What would prompt a court to go beyond what is stated in the information and sift through the files for “facts” admitted or not denied by the prosecution?

       Supreme Court decisions, mentioned in the Ongpin ponencia, mention some such grounds. Some examples:

       o the fiscal’s role is to see that justice is done; not that all accused are convicted, but that the guilty are justly punished

       o in the interest of speedy administration of justice

      o rules of procedure are mere tools designed to facilitate the attainment of justice, their strict and rigid application which would result in technicalities that tend to frustrate rather than promote substantial justice must always be avoided. Technicality should not be allowed to stand in the way of equitably and completely resolving the rights and obligations of the parties

       o the judge or fiscal should not go on with the prosecution in the hope that some credible evidence might later turn up during the trial for this would be a flagrant violation of a basic right which the courts are created to uphold

       o faced with an information charging a manifestly non-existent crime, the duty of a trial court is to throw it out. Or at the very least and where possible make it conform to the law

       Of these grounds, what did the majority, as relayed by Martires, rely on? He said: “... When the Court was evaluating the grounds raised in the motions to quash, we revisited and examined in detail the documents submitted by both the complainants and the accused which were relied upon by the investigating officers of the Ombudsman ....

       "In the course of our re-examination, we noticed that the findings and conclusions of the investigating officers are either contrary to the admissions of the complainants or are diametrically opposed to the documents that they relied upon during the preliminary investigation. It would appear that the investigating officers of the Ombudsman focused on the allegations in the complaint that would support the filing of these cases without thoroughly examining the documents that were submitted by both the complainants and the respondents.” Italics mine.

       He then went on to point out several instances “where the investigating officers of the Ombudsman contradicted the complainants and the documents attached to the complaint.” In other words, Martires effectively said that the investigating officers of the Ombudsman did not “thoroughly” examine the documents on file and were blind to the contradictions between the facts alleged in the information and the facts embedded in the documents filed with it.

       Martires then went on to point out said contradictions. The first one mentioned was the significant fact of payment: were the loans taken out by Roberto Ongpin’s company from the Development Bank of the Philippines fully paid by the time the information was filed?

       The complaint-affidavit, the Special Audit Report, and the Audit Observation Memorandum clearly described the loans as “fully paid.” But, Martires noticed, the Ombudsman’s Review Resolution conceded only that they were “allegedly settled,” or “purportedly settled” (Italics mine). During the arguments, the prosecutor from the Ombudsman even said “there is no proof of payment” and, when confronted by the documents, she said “we cannot admit that, your Honor” and “we have not seen any proof of payment, your Honor.”

       From this example of what Martines called the “prosecution’s DENIAL OF AN INDENIABILITY” (Caps in the original ponencia), he proceeded to rebut each one of the points raised in the information that were cited to support the charges against Ongpin and his co-accused.

       Will Martires do for Enrile what he did for Ongpin? We will know in a day or two. Maybe. - Rappler.com

       (Reynaldo "Gerry" Geronimo is a partner at the Romulo, Mabanta, Buenaventura Sayoc & De los Angeles law office. He is known as The Trust Guru and maintains a website, www.thetrustguru.com.)

 HOME    Manila Standard Today Article List